Missing Magic Kingdom Rope Drop in the Days of FP+

For this weeks trip review article I want to investigate a question that has become pretty important now in the days of FP+. Can I still have a great park day even if I don’t make it for park opening? In the old days of legacy Fastpass if you missed rope drop and that first chance to grab a Fastpass you were in a little trouble as those return times just kept creeping further and further away. I decided to investigate this on a summer day at the Magic Kingdom.

We arrived at the front gates of the park at 9:40 AM and getting into the park was a madhouse. The new turnstile-less system handles the crowds in a much better method than the older turnstile system so that is one big benefit. Despite the large crowds we were on Main Street in about five minutes. We took our time getting down Main Street and even did a little shopping in the Emporium as we were a little early for when I wanted to start our touring plan. We even spent a few minutes looking at the new fake grass areas in the redesigned hub.

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After a little shopping, including picking up a shirt I had been eying, we headed towards our first FP+ location of the day, Peter Pan. The standby line was well over and hour by this time and the FP line even took us about ten minutes to get on the ride. After this we headed onto it’s a small world for a quick trip on the happiest cruise that ever sailed.

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The line looks pretty long in the picture, but we were on in just about ten minutes. We then had an early lunch reservation at Be Our Guest at 11:00 AM, so by the time we got out of the always present boat backup at it’s a small world it was about time for lunch.

We spent about 40 minutes inside the restaurant for our quick service lunch and at 11:45 it was time for our next FP at Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. The FP line was quick here and it was a fantastic ride as usual. We took a quick spin on the Carousel for our son before getting on our way to Frontierland. Here was a shot of Fantasyland right around noon as we were passing through.

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While walking into Frontierland we saw Chip and Dale meeting guests and we jumped in line and only waited about five minutes to see them.

We then headed to use our next FP+ at Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at 12:15. We had a great ride there and when we finished we headed over into Adventureland for a trip on Pirates of the Caribbean. This line took us about 15 minutes to get through without a FP, which was our longest line of the morning. This was all we had planned for the park this morning because when you take ten day trips like we do you can afford to do shorter and easier park trips like this. We also had a special dinner reservation we had to get rested up for before this evening.

Now, on my way out of the park I did stop at a kiosk that didn’t have a line and at that point of the day, around 12:45 we could have gotten a 4th FP for Jungle Cruise, Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, or about any other ride in the park except for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. Even after arriving around 10:00 AM we were still able to do six attractions, four of which were headliners, by about 12:30 PM and that included a 40 minute lunch stop. That’s a pretty good morning considering we missed rope drop. So, with all that said, due to the FP+ system you can still have a great morning in the Magic Kingdom even if you arrive after park opening as long as you have those FP+ reservations done in advance.

Let us know your thoughts below on touring the parks after missing rope drop.

How to Handle Crowds in Disney Parks

Castle CloudyTry as I may, there’s really no way to successfully argue that the Disney World crowds during peak seasons are not that big of a deal. They’re a big deal. No doubt that traveling to the most magical of destinations during the summer, the ever-increasingly-popular Fall (with Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival and Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party) or Christmas/New Years can cause your stress levels to rise just at the mere thought of it. However, those are some of the best times to make memories! Pools and waterparks, trick or treating at Magic Kingdom, scrumptious food and wine festivities and the fairy tale world of Christmastime–these are times that should not be ruled out just because there are several more thousand crazy mouse lovers there with you!

While it can be tricky, navigating these popular times is absolutely doable and magical! Check out the following list of helpful hints and tips!

Stay on property
Although I believe that staying in a Disney resort is always the best idea, there are occasions where families will rent condos, stay with friends or try a discount hotel to save money. Peak season is not the time for that! The travel time to and from property wastes valuable minutes, not to mention the extra parking fees and the chance you could always get lost! The Disney transportation system, whether by bus, monorail or boat, takes you right to the heart of the action!

Utilize Extra Magic Hours
Those early morning or late night hours for Disney guests can provide guests opportunities to knock out several attractions! Sleeping in and enjoying easy mornings are wonderful if you’re on a cruise or at the beach. When you’re at Disney during peak seasons, it’s all about rising and heading to the parks! Grab a granola bar and arrive at the parks about 30 minutes before the Magic Hour opening. You could quite possibly ride 3-4 rides in an hour! Now, by the time lunchtime hits, the park that had the Extra Magic Hour will probably be extra crowded, so head home. Eat at your resort, take a nap, swim and then head back to a park. You could even leave one park and head straight to another that didn’t have Extra Magic Hour. Chances are that park won’t be as crowded. Don’t forget the late Extra Magic Hours! You can knock out several attractions that last hour after fireworks when people start to head home!

Park Hop
I am not always a fan of park hopping, but during the busy seasons, it can be a life saver! Utilizing parks just for their Extra Magic Hour and then hopping to another park can prove very efficient to your conquering of the parks!

Fast Passes
Use those Fast Passes! Select those Fast Passes 60 days out! Do not wait until the car is packed and you’re heading east on I-10 to make those selections. Get to the parks at opening, and ride, ride, ride. Crowds are smallest in the morning, so no need to use Fast Passes before noon!  Make your Fast Passes for early afternoon when things begin to get crazy. Then, once those initial 3 are used, use Fast Passes on every ride you can! Why wouldn’t you??

Ride Instead of Watch
People flock to the streets to line up for parades and fireworks. Take advantage of that and hit some attractions. If you want to watch parades or evening shows, always choose the latest times.

Have a Plan
I picture my dad in socks and sandals, pulling out a map in the middle of Main Street pondering which direction we should point ourselves. Um, not these days! You must go with a plan! Websites, My Disney Experience, blogs, experienced friends and Authorized Disney Vacation Planners (like me!) can help you design a plan of attack for your vacation during these times.

Be Flexible
Ok, now that you have a plan, be flexible enough to stray from it just a bit! It is so essential to tour Disney with a plan, yet it is even more crucial to not be locked into that plan. Sometimes things don’t work out according to plan. A ride will break down. Cranky pants will needs nap to save everyone’s sanity. Dad loses his glasses on Space Mountain and must search now for them. Or the crowds will just be too much. Be willing to bend for the sake of everyone’s enjoyment and your ultimate success of your vacation. Magic happens in the World, but sometimes you must work for it and give just a little.

Use an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner
Hey, we love what we do! Planning vacations aren’t overwhelming to us, it’s fun! Each family is unique and your vacation plans should be tailored to the personalities in your family. The services of a Disney travel planner are free and we are committed to you having the very best Disney experience possible!

Magic Kingdom Evening Touring

Trip Review SaturdayIn this weeks edition of the Saturday Review I’m going to discuss an evening visit to the Magic Kingdom. Just like always we are a family with a toddler and were visiting on an evening in the middle of the summer. We began our evening touring at 6:30 PM after our dinner inside the park and had the goal of being out by around 9:00 PM.

This plan is a look at what you can do if you are able to go into the evening time with at least two Fastpass+ reservations still available to you. We had a Fastpass set up at Peter Pan that we used as we started touring. Peter Pan is always a good use of a Fastpass in the afternoon or evening and this time was no exception as we passed a 60 minute standby line and were on the ride in about 5 minutes.

After Peter Pan we headed into one of the most nostalgic rides for our family, Mickey’s Philharmagic. The ride was charming as usual and is still one of our favorite evening attractions at the Magic Kingdom. We stopped and got in a ride for the three year old on the carousel before heading over to use our other Fastpass+ reservation at Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. Many of you might want to know if we took the toddler on the ride and the answer is yes. We gave him the choice, let him watch the ride, and told him it goes pretty fast and he still said he wanted to go, or in his words “I want to ride high ho.” He loved the ride and couldn’t understand why we couldn’t get right back on. I tried to explain that the line was about 80 minutes, but he didn’t like that answer very well!

After Seven Dwarfs we decided to do another ride the toddler would enjoy and headed back to Storybook Circus and took a ride on Dumbo. What a great ride at night! The lights and the water just make a great little experience and of course you get great views of the park once you get up high. It was about 8:00 at this point so we started heading back towards the front of the park. We stopped so I could take a ride on Space Mountain as I had picked up a child swap pass when my wife had ridden that morning. It was a great ride as always and then we of course had to take a spin on the Peoplemover on the way out of the park.

By the time was had finished the Peoplemover it was about 8:30 and we began our walk to the exit. They did have the back path open behind Main Street and we took it since we didn’t have any shopping to complete that day. We were out of the park by 8:45. So overall, we did seven attractions in about two hours and 15 minutes with the aid of a couple of Fastpass+ reservations. I’d say that’s a pretty production evening at the Magic Kingdom. Happy Trip Planning!

Animal Kingdom Families with Children Morning Plan Review

AnimalKingdomEntranceFor this weekends edition of the trip review article I’m going to go through a morning visit we had on our last trip to Animal Kingdom. This is not going to be a step by step touring plan for Disney’s Animal Kingdom, but it will give you a good idea of what to expect and one specific way to tour this park with the use of Fastpass+. For clarification we are a family of two adults and one child who is too young to ride Expedition Everest and this trip took place in June, so summer crowds were in effect. (Picture to the Left Credited To: CC-BY-SA-3.0/Matt H. Wade at Wikipedia)

We arrived at the park via our resort bus at 8:25 AM before a 9:00 AM opening.

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The park opened at 8:47 AM, but keep in mind Disney had been changing things up with Animal Kingdom’s opening procedures, so it may very well be slightly different from this. After walking to the back of the park we ended up arriving at Kilimanjaro Safari just before 9:00 AM and had to wait a couple of minutes for the ride to open. They opened right at 9:00 AM and we were soon boarding a safari vehicle. Here are a few pictures of our safari, which was good as it usually is in the morning.

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We were off the ride just before 9:30 and were well ahead of schedule. We had actually planned on visiting the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail and we would have had about 25 minutes to do so, but we decided we would rather spend the time grabbing some breakfast at Kusafiri Bakery. Our plan was to attend the 10:00 AM Festival of the Lion King Show as we knew it would be not very crowded and we could show up very close to showtime. We arrived at 9:55 AM and walked right into about a half full theatre and enjoyed a great show!

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After the show our plan was to use our first Fastpass+ of the day. Now, for our family we have a hard time deciding what to use our third Fastpass+ on. We usually use one on Everest and Dinosaur, but our son is not quite into Kali River Rapids yet and my wife and I don’t care to ride it without him like we do Expedition Everest. The attraction we settled on to use our Fastpass+ for is the Mickey and Minnie Meet at Adventurers Outpost.

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We have done this meet before and it is a really unique meet and greet as you actually get both characters at the same time, which is not the case at most meets. We arrived at 10:40 and were meeting Mickey and Minnie by 10:45 which bypassed about a 20 minutes standby line. Not a huge jump, but Character meet and greet lines are notoriously boring and some of the least fun ones to wait in. After a great meet it was about 10:55 and our next plan was to head for some lunch. We enjoy having lunch at Restaurantosaurus or Flame Tree BBQ in this park. Flame Tree certainly has better food, but it was very hot and we decided on Restaurantosaurus as the seating area is air conditioned. I’m not going to do a full dining review here, but I will include a picture of my entree, the Mac ‘n Cheese Dog. We enjoy the food here, although it is nothing special, but the air conditioned seating area is a big positive.

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The next step on our agenda was that we stopped at about 11:30 for a ride on Triceratop Spin and had to wait about 10 minutes. Next we were heading to the 12:00 PM performance of Finding Nemo: The Musical. We arrived about 11:50 and got a seat on the first row of the top section and it was perfect.

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The show was over by 12:40 and we headed at this point to use our next Fastpass+ at Expedition Everest. Of course one of us has to stay with our son so it took us about 25 minutes to both get our ride in. After riding Everest we headed back to Dinoland to use our final Fastpass+ at Dinosaur.

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We arrived at 1:20 and I was able to ride walk right into the pre-show. While one of us rides the other likes to take our son and ride Triceratop Spin as the line is usually about the perfect length to take up the time the other person is at Dinosaur. When I got off at about 1:40 my wife had decided she didn’t want to ride so we were ready to head out of the park. Here is what we accomplished in about 4 and a half hours at Animal Kingdom in the summer.

  • Kilimanjaro Safari (Standby)
  • Breakfast at Kusafiri Bakery (Would have had time for Pangani Trail)
  • Festival of the Lion King Show (Standby)
  • Meet Disney Pals Mickey & Minnie at Adventurers Outpost (Fastpass+)
  • Lunch at Restaurantosaurus
  • Triceratop Spin (Standby)
  • Finding Nemo: The Musical (Standby)
  • Expedition Everest (Fastpass+, 2 Times due to Young Child)
  • Dinosaur (Fastpass+, Other adult and young child did Triceratop Spin)

We were very pleased with our day, especially considering we were able to see both Festival of the Lion King and Finding Nemo, which is kind of a difficult task in just a half day of touring. We hope this plan helps you in planning your morning at Animal Kingdom. Thanks for reading and happy trip planning!

A Magic Kingdom Morning Toddler Touring Plan with Columbia Harbour House

For today’s Trip Review Saturday article I wanted to talk a little about a Magic Kingdom morning plan we used on our last trip. This is a great plan to use if you have young children traveling with you, but keep in mind we only have a little boy in our party, no girls, so something like Anna & Elsa is not on our radar, and honestly, I can’t say that disappoints me! Our strategy was to get several things in Fantasyland done before the park got super crowded on a crazy summer day. We were waiting for the park to open by 8:15 AM and here was our view…one of my favorite views anytime, anywhere!

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Now, to give you a little more perspective here is that shot zoomed out a little so you can see some of the crowd at 8:15 in the morning.

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Yikes! I was a little shocked. Being 45 minutes early, even last summer would have gotten us pretty close to the rope, now we were 20-25 people back. Oh well, most of these people were headed to one of two attractions anyway, Anna & Elsa or Seven Dwarves Mine Train, and we are certainly not heading to either of those. After watching the awesome welcome show we were let into the park at exactly 8:46 AM.

So, like I said while almost everyone else was heading to Anna & Elsa or Seven Dwarves Mine Train, we took the opportunity to get a jump start on everything else in Fantasyland. If you can get FP+s for those two popular attractions this is a great touring order for a family with young children to follow. As you will see we are going to get a lot of things done by lunch time and get out of this park at a reasonable time so that we can all get rested up for the evening.

We headed down main street, not having to hurry since no-one else was headed where we were, and went towards our traditional starting point, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. We were on the ride by 8:55 AM and off and heading for something else before the actual park opening time. We then hit up one of our son’s favorite attractions, the Barnstormer. We even got to do it twice as there was no one else in line yet! After flying with the Great Goofini on his coaster we headed over to take a spin on Dumbo. Guess what time it was when we finished…if you guessed 9:15, you are correct. We had already done four rides and the park has only been officially open for 15 minutes.

Let me give another great tip for this area of the park if you have a stroller, but your kids can walk some for short distances. We parked our stroller at Dumbo before we rode Barnstormer and we did not pick for over 45 minutes. There are some great things close to that location and it is very nice to not have to load up in the stroller after every attraction. After Dumbo our plan had been to head in to see Goofy and Donald at Pete’s Silly Sideshow, but we were moving so quickly Pete’s wasn’t open yet. It opens at 9:45 AM most mornings if the park opens at 9:00, although I would check the times guide. I believe it opens at park opening some select days. We left the stroller by Dumbo and jumped ahead to our next ride, Under the Sea. It was about 9:20 by this point and there was no line here at all and we were done by 9:30. We still had 15 minutes to waste before Pete’s opened and our son begged and begged to do Barnstormer again, so why not, there were no lines in this part of the park yet. So after our third ride on Barnstormer we headed to get in line for Pete’s as it was about five minutes from opening.

They opened promptly at 9:45 and a nice tip is if you are first in line the characters will open the doors and meet you and then take the kids hands and walk them through the line to their meet and greet area. We weren’t at the front, but it made the day of a little girl and I love seeing that Disney magic. After a great meet with Goofy and Donald we stopped for a quick chocolate croissant and some water in Gaston’s Tavern before heading all the way across the park to Frontierland. We had done a lot of attractions already as well as a meet and greet and it was just 10:00. We arrived at Big Thunder Mountain, the next thing on our list, and the wait time was listed as 10 minutes, but right as we got to the entrance a cast member was shutting it down because the ride was broken. So, I cannot give an accurate wait time for 10:00 AM on a summer day, but the posted one had been 10 minutes before they closed. With a Splash Mountain FP opening at 10:40 we had some time to kill so we headed into the air conditioning at Country Bear Jamboree. “There…was…blood on the saddle!” After the world famous performance we headed over so my wife could use a Splash Mountain FP. It was close to 11:00 as we had done some walking around in Adventureland as well before the show. Our son was not ready for Splash just yet so we got a child swap and he and I headed over to get set for lunch at Columbia Harbour House.

I ordered lunch while my wife rode Splash Mountain and the time worked out about perfectly as she walked up to our table about the exact time that we sat down with our food. We found a perfect seat at an upstairs window that looked down into the park and I would recommend anyone having a meal here to always go sit upstairs if it is open. We were early enough to beat most of the lunch rush, so it wasn’t too crowded, but even when it is the upstairs is usually still very peaceful. The food during our meal was good as always. My wife and son both got kids meals and I ended up going with the fish and chips as I usually do.

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The fish is always very good, in my opinion, for a quick service restaurant and everything else we had was great as well. Our son loved the mac ‘n cheese here and my wife loved the kids meal she got which had the perfect amount for her of one piece of fish and a few chicken nuggets. The entire experience at Columbia Harbour House is always great as it is a nice peaceful spot to stop and each lunch. My tip to anyone needing lunch in this part of the park is to definitely stop here and find one of those tables upstairs by a window. It is a great break from the craziness of the theme park and the food is good as well.

After lunch it was 11:45 and we had done a lot already that morning and were ready for a break so we just decided to head back for a nap and some swimming. There was a show going on while we walked out so of course we had to stop and watch for a few minutes.

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It was all in all a great morning at the Magic Kingdom. We visited around 10 attractions in just about two hours and finished our morning off with a visit to Columbia Harbour House, our favorite lunch spot in this park. Thanks for reading and happy trip planning!

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